W ith the ratification of the Adams-Onis Treaty in February 1821 the United States finally came into legal possession of the Florida peninsula. Although a few Americans -- naturalists, shipwrecked sailors, adventurous traders, General Andrew Jackson and his troops -- had visited Spanish Florida or squatted on its soil, the great majority knew very little about this remote region except that it had been a hideout for marauding Indians and runaway slaves. But in the early years after annexation an increasing number of soldiers and settlers had an opportunity to see the newly acquired territory for themselves. Most of them were enthusiastic.
Lt. George A. McCall, a recent graduate of West Point, exulted in the "glorious clime" of the army base at Pensacola. In January 1823 when most of the United States was in the icy grip of winter, northwestern Florida was balmy. Except for a few small fleecy clouds the sky was "clear and serene, unruffled and undisturbed by the breath of a zephyr." McCall described the air as "light and elastic, and of that happy temperature which, inducing a calm repose of the physical faculties, and leading the mind to indulge in a dreamy tranquillity, causes the mere consciousness of existence to become an unspeakable delight."1* The young officer continued to love his Florida assignment. The Indians were quiet; military duties were minimal; the fishing and hunting were exhilarating. Transferred to a fort near Tampa, McCall was even happier. On 1 December 1827, he wrote: "Here we have the most charming weather imaginable; I should say, unparalleled in any part of our country, if, indeed, it is surpassed in any part of the world. Since the third day of October not a drop of rain has fallen, and not twice in a month has a cloud as big as a blanket appeared in the bright canopy above us.... It is a paradise for those who love to live in the open air."2
Florida cast a similar enchantment over other early visitors. The____________________